So, in following the vein of the last post, I will reflect once again upon my work placements experiences. It’s not exactly journalism, but about my day in court.
I spent two days in court recently, observing and taking notes. Admittedly this note taking was mostly superficial, due to my my teelin ability having noticeably deteriorated over the last month and a half. This in itself could prove a problem come February, when I wil be expected to strive for 80 words per minute, and then perhaps that holy grail of 100 words or more.
First point, court IN NO WAY resembles the wonderful oak panelled halls of justice that we all see in courtroom dramas. Instead, we are presented with a few folding seats wedged behind a pinewood partition, and a rather drab green and pale wood colour scheme. The defendant does not sit in close conference with their lawyer at a huge wooden desk, but is ensconced behind plexiglass, between glum faced parole officers.
Secondly, there is very rarely brilliant oratory tp be witnessed. Instead, the barristers counsel the judge on just how bad their clients have been, before suggesting a sentence that seems almost prearranged. The judges are grumpy, at least literatire seems to have got that right, and concerned with getting this nasty business all over with as quickly as possible before lunch.
And the defendants themselves. Well, high falutin’ criminal capers it ain’t. Sentences I witnessed being passed included a little old lady (well, middle aged) who kept speed in her fridge, someone stopped for possessing what amounted to about two spliffs worth of cannabis, and a driving instructor who “touched a girls leg in an innapropriate manner.” And that was the crown court! The magistrates were left with the dregs; two women pulling each others hair and a parade of geezers “who didn’t realise it was only a 30 zone, honest.”
There is fun to be had from judging the judges. “Judge Idol”, Strictly Come Sentencing”? You could have little cards with numbers, and award pints for the best wig, best sentencing, most dismissive/patient/kindly judge. Some of them were beautifully condescending, whilst managing to appear sympathetic. A brilliant dichotomy.
When not judging the judges, it’s a great distraction to sit in the magistrates court and follow the torturous logic of the people who try to defend themselves. It’s not so much that they’re wrong, but mostly they’re so blinded with worry that they can’t listen to advice, such as “we’re not here to decide that matter” or “yes, you ARE free to go”. I particularly enjoyed the one man who said to everyone “well, if it makes things easier, yeah, I suppose I can say I did it.” Masterly self representation, sure to impress. And I’m sure he took them all in.
Finally, you could always take a straw poll of how many people actually turn their mobile phones of. For the press as a whole, this seems a law more honoured in the breach than in the observance. But at least they do it subtly, there’s nothing more conducive to the heightened atmosphere in a sexual harassment trial than the strident tones of Nelly’s Hot in Herrre, blaring out in all it’s monophonic glory.
It may technically be an offence under the contempt of court act, but it sure does relieve the tension.